Business Analyst Knowledge and Experience

A reader recently asked me the following question: “In your opinion does a Business Analyst need High Level IT experience? or general data analytical skills in addition to business knowledge”  That’s an interesting question, I’ve mentioned before that I think one of the roles of a business analyst is as an interpreter.  I think a lot of companies struggle with that question too.  I’ve been on a number of projects where there was already a business analyst on the project and I was assigned as the IT business analyst.

So what level of IT experience should the business analyst have?  My opinion is that the business analyst normally DOES NOT have to have a high level of IT experience BUT it does depend on the project.  It really depends on a number of things such as the type of project, the time frame of the project, or even the relationship with the development teams.  The fundamentals don’t change.  You still need to ask the Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why.  The business analyst needs to understand what the business wants.  The difference is that now the BA has to translate it what the business wants into what the developer can understand.

How do you do that?  This is where experience, not specifically IT experience, but overall experience comes in.  You have to know how to drill down and ask the appropriate questions.  That means asking for more details surrounding the process and requirements.  The more details you have the easier it will be to tell the IT teams what you want.  They can then tell you, the business analyst, what additional information they need.

That being said, I think there are times when it is important to have an IT and/or Database business analyst.  There is a level of expertise that will be required that a regular business analyst wouldn’t necessarily know.  When this occurs, I think the business analyst becomes more of a subject matter expert for the team, while the IT and/or Database analyst can ask more specific information so they can have a more complete picture of what is needed.  Eventually, you learn the questions and type of information that you need, but that only comes from experience.

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